Maya Angelou Honored For Courage, Blackness

In This Section

Vol 32 Issue 13

New 'Phone Book' Raising Serious Privacy Issues

PALO ALTO, CA—Alarmed by the "ever-shrinking security and rights of individuals in the information age," the Palo Alto-based group Citizens For Privacy is calling for strict controls to be placed on "phone books"—printed directories of all the telephone numbers in a specified area. "With this new piece of technology," CFP head Nadine Geary said, "anyone could know your phone number in literally seconds." Exacerbating the situation, Geary said, is the fact that, in many cases, the subject’s address is also printed right next to the number. "If this device is allowed to be distributed,” Geary said, "literally anyone would be able to track you down at any time. It’s frightening."

Entertainment Weekly Wins Excellence-In-Caption-Pun Award

NEW YORK—The National Society of Journalists honored Entertainment Weekly Monday, giving the magazine its 1997 Excellence-In-Caption-Pun Award. The magazine was specifically cited for its June 17-23 issue, which contained the caption "Pup Fiction" under a photo of Glenn Close from 101 Dalmatians, and the caption "Sofa, So Good" under a photo of Uma Thurman resting on a couch—considered by many to be the greatest caption pun ever. "At a time when journalistic standards are on the decline, the caption puns of Entertainment Weekly remind us all what this profession is supposed to be all about," society chairperson Hal Sisson said. Entertainment Weekly is currently working on a pun involving David Duchovny and a bucket.

Villain Contends He, Hero 'Very Much Alike'

JUSTICE CITY—Two seemingly diametrically opposed figures were compared Monday as evil crimelord Cyrus Darkheart confided to longtime nemesis Captain Freedom that the two are in many ways"“very much alike." "We are not so different, are we?" Darkheart said. "You see, like me, the source of your great power is the very thing that threatens to destroy you. And yet you refuse to face it." Darkheart then noted aloud the irony of his observation before activating his doomsday device.

NYSE Admits: This Is All Make Believe

NEW YORK—New York Stock Exchange officials released a statement Monday admitting that the exchange, one of the primary means by which the nation’s economic health is measured, is in reality a made-up and largely random mishmash of numbers and meaningless statistics. "The whole ‘stock exchange’ idea came about around the turn of the century at the request of publisher William Randolph Hearst, who was looking for something to fill the back half of his New York Journal," NYSE’s Ian Silver said. "So a man named Henry Tillman came up with the idea of a ‘stock-ticker’ device, which spewed out reams of bogus numbers for Hearst to reprint." NYSE has no plans to disband.

I Am A Mummy

In 1968, anticipating my imminent demise and wishing to go to the grave looking sharp, I took the precaution of having myself mummified. My major organs were carefully removed by eminent Egyptian physicians and stored in special alabaster jars. (Except for my spleen, whose jar was knocked over and subsequently consumed by field-mice, and my brain, which I still need.)

An Open Letter To A Starving Child

Dear Starving Child, I saw your picture in one of these "Feed The Children" magazine ads. It said your mother dumped you in a Sri Lankan back-alley trash heap, and that you've been a street urchin, begging for scraps from Bedouin traders, since you were five. And it said for two cents a day I could feed you. Well, I must say, I don't know how you can live like that. I mean, what are you thinking? If I were you, I'd high-tail it home and make myself a juicy ham sandwich with some cheese on it, then I'd put it in the microwave so the cheese melts and the sandwich is nice and warm. In fact, I'd toast the bread so it has a little crunch to it. And that brings me to why I'm writing you. I think I can offer you some basic tips on how to get along better in life. Instead of giving you a mere two cents a day, I'm going to give you a lifetime's accumulated wisdom. You see, as a successful carpet salesman, I do all right. And I think I can share a lesson or two about getting the most out of this crazy game called life. First of all, you've got to consolidate your debt. Those interest payments will kill you. I learned this one the hard way. And seeing how you don't have a home, you should be able to pay off any high-interest loans and start putting your money into no-load mutual funds. That's where the real growth potential is. It may not seem like much every month, but over time, you'll be building quite a nest egg. And when you get to be my age, it's nice to be able to pamper yourself a little bit with some of your dividends. Like just last night, I spent over $100 on a lobster dinner. We had lobster soaked in butter, mashed potatoes with chives, and yellow squash with yogurt sauce. I'm telling you, I was so stuffed, I felt sick. I came home and vomited! It was a great meal, but I hate when I stuff myself. That takes the pleasure out of eating. It's almost like I threw that $100 right into the toilet. But for a brief moment, it was heaven. Second, living on the street is no way to build equity. For as little as $1,000 down you can get a modest two- or three-bedroom home. This will not only help you build a financial future, it will help you build self-esteem. Homeowners are self-assured, productive members of society. And remember, the three most important things in real estate: location, location and location. So buy in a nice area. You'll want to look at schools, since you're eight years old. You know, it occurs to me that you don't even live in America. And I've got to know, what the heck are you doing living in Sri Lanka? What do they have there? Camels? Rugs? Well, I can tell you one thing they don't have: 100 percent grade-A American opportunity. America is the land of milk and honey. You can probably catch a flight here from Sri Lanka for as little as $2,500 if you shop around. So what's keeping you? Okay, I can imagine how it is: you live in a back alley and you eat garbage. And maybe you don't have the liquid capital to outlay $2,500 on a luxury-like first-class airfare to the U.S. Well, you can always fly coach for about a third of first-class fare, and if worst comes to worst, put it on the plastic. As long as you pay it off as quickly as you can, the interest won't cramp your style. (See Tip #1.) Now, since you're eating scraps from dumpsters, my guess is you could use a little shot in the arm when it comes to income. Well, maybe I'm tooting my own horn here a little bit, but have you ever considered a position in carpet sales? It's a high-profit industry, and commissions are good nowadays. With new homes being built at a record pace all across the country, and remodeling positively going through the stratosphere, there's never a shortage of demand for new, high-quality carpets. Thick shag, thin shag, knit, indoor, outdoor—any variety of color. Heck, I could take you over to the warehouse and show you some of my samples if you like. Well, I hope I've given you some fat to chew on. I'd like to know if I can be of any more help, so I'd appreciate it if you could write back. And FedEx it. I bet international mail takes forever.

This Lump Under My Arm Is Probably Nothing

Hey, how's it going? Everything okay? Hope so. Say, do you know any first aid? I don't really know what the problem is. Could be some sort of bug bite or something. Actually, forget it—I'm just being a worry-wart again. I'm sure this lump under my arm is nothing. I'm not going to fret about it unless it causes my shirt size to go up again.
End Of Section
  • More News
TV Listings
Just Like Everything Else!: Fox 8 p.m. EDT/7 p.m. ABC Pete's wife is still on him about building that darn shed, these kids are going to be the death of Sheila and Dave, and the hot next-door neighbor is up in EVERYBODY'S business! Sunday nights on ABC couldn't be any more familiar!

Special Coverage

Healthy Eating

Personal Finance

Maya Angelou Honored For Courage, Blackness

ATLANTA—Citing her outstanding contribution to the field of literature written by African Americans, many of the nation's top cultural luminaries gathered at Morehouse College Monday to present author and poet Maya Angelou with the first-ever Maya Angelou Lifetime Courage And Blackness Achievement Award.

The courageous Dr. Maya Angelou.

Reading like a veritable who's-who of the nation's political, literary, academic and daytime-television elite, the event's star-studded guest list included such notables as Susan Sarandon, Henry Louis Gates, Fiona Apple, Oprah Winfrey and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who described Angelou in her keynote address as "courageous and black."

"Maya Angelou is not merely a courageous literary figure, she is also an extremely black person, with an overall skin tone far darker in hue than that of a person of European descent," Clinton said. She went on to note that Angelou, author of such mediocre works as I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, And

Still I Rise, and On The Pulse Of The Morning, President Clinton's 1992 inaugural poem, has been "black since birth."

Also paying tribute to Dr. Angelou at the ceremony was Yale University professor of English Isabel Leuchter, who spoke eloquently on the subject of Angelou's poetry and her deep-brown face and arms.

"Many women have distinguished themselves in American letters: Edith Wharton, Eudora Welty and Flannery O'Connor, to name a mere handful," she said. "However, when compared to Angelou, even these greats stand clearly lighter in skin tone. She is far blacker than any of these predecessors—and that takes a lot of courage."

Visibly black, Angelou thanked the assembled crowd, modestly pointing out that, while she was honored by the recognition, she prefers "not just to be thought of as a 'black writer,' but as a 'woman writer' as well."

"Being black in today's America has caused me great adversity, adversity which I have needed great courage to overcome," Angelou said. "But much of the adversity I have faced has come from my status as a woman. Being a woman in today's America also requires enormous courage."

Calling Angelou's writing "the poetry of a very black woman," Clinton also commended her for her supporting role opposite Oprah Winfrey in the inspirational 1993 made-for-TV movie There Are No Children Here, in which she portrayed an inspirational black woman.

"That film dealt with gang violence, a topic that has deeply touched this nation's African-American community," said Clinton, who was accompanied by a sign-language interpreter. "By taking on this and other touching black roles, Maya Angelou has touched us all."

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley, who presented Angelou with the award on behalf of the Maya Angelou Lifetime Courage And Blackness Achievement Awards committee, called her "a blacker woman than I will ever be." Smiley said she hopes to see the Maya Angelou Lifetime Courage And Blackness Achievement Award become an annual event, and to continue to present the award to Angelou every year until her death.

The hour-long event included retrospective readings from throughout Angelou's career, as well as a full-color slideshow offering spectrographic analysis of Angelou's skin, clearly demonstrating that it is darker than that of whites. The presentation also featured a musical salute to Angelou from the vocal group Sounds Of Blackness, a performance many guests described as "moving and black."

Alternative-rock singer Fiona Apple—who, like millions of other semi-educated, emotionally unstable young white women, cites Angelou as a "major influence"—also paid tribute to the poet, dedicating to Angelou a spoken-word recitation of her song "Criminal," throughout which she contorted and leered sexually at the audience.

In her closing remarks, Clinton said that Angelou's courage is something "all of us can share."

"It takes a lot of courage to admire a black woman in today's racially polarized world," Clinton said. "Choosing to be here today was a brave decision on my part, and by being here with me, each and every one of you has also shown tremendous bravery. Give yourselves a hand."

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Smiley agreed. "It took a lot of courage for me to stand there and give an award to an African American, knowing full well what kind of society we live in," she said. "I am a source of great pride."

Yet amid all the pomp and glamour, Angelou herself remained modest. Courageously addressing the press, Angelou said, "There are many others equally deserving of such praise," and called for more recognition of fellow writers Gloria Naylor, Toni Morrison, Rita Dove and Alice Walker, writers she described as "uncompromisingly courageous" and "also black."

The award was Angelou's first since last Friday, when she received the Angela Davis Leadership Award For Contributions To The Field Of Lesbian Identity from Smith College.

Next Story

Onion Video

Watch More